Douglas Engelbart (1925 to 2013) was one of the world’s greatest innovators and scientific pioneers, having created at SRI International (at the time Stanford Research Institute) the computer mouse, hypertext, networked computers, and the graphical user interface. That is, he created the fundamental ideas behind the modern PC interface, including multiple windows, real-time text editing, and video teleconferencing.
Engelbart’s overriding mission was to augment human intelligence so that society could more rapidly solve its important, urgent problems. He did that in his computer science work but he also made seminal contributions to our understanding of the fundamental principles that allow it to happen.
In Silicon Valley and around the world Doug is held in awe for what is known as the “Mother of All Demos,” held in San Francisco in 1968. That is where Doug and his team, led by a genius engineering partner, Bill English, demonstrated most of the fundamentals of the modern computer interface, all working in real time. They created a revolution in computer science research and helped lead to the formation of PARC and Apple Computer. Both of these companies licensed the computer mouse from SRI.
When I first came to SRI in Meno Park as CEO, I visited Doug to get to know him and to learn about “how he did it.” You don’t create the greatest demonstration of computer science breakthroughs by accident. I learned that his achievements resulted from the way his team worked together.
At the time Doug was “retired,” so I invited him back to SRI, where he had an office and assistant until he died. Doug remains an inspiration to all who knew him and studied his work.
Throughout this blog we will come back to Doug and revisit his important ideas. More information about Doug and his life is at the Doug Engelbart Institute. Visiting it is well worth your time.